|Single Atom in an Ion Trap | Photo by David Nadlinger/University of Oxford/EPSRC/PA|
A photo of a single trapped atom has won the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council‘s (EPSRC) science photography contest. The image, which is titled “Single Atom in an Ion Trap,” was taken by David Nadlinger of the University of Oxford. Showcased in the image is single positively-charged strontium atom trapped by electric fields produced by metal electrodes.
You have to zoom in to really see it, but even that is incredible when you really wrap your mind around what you’re looking at. Here’s a closer crop:
|This closer crop better shows the glowing strontium atom, trapped by electric fields produced by electrodes in the vacuum chamber.|
According to the EPSRC, the image is a long exposure that was taken through an ultra-high vacuum chamber’s window. A blue-violet laser was used to illuminate the atom, which absorbed light particles and then re-emitted them. That process produces enough light that a regular camera can photograph the atom if a long exposure is used.
Photographer and overall EPSRC contest winner David Nadlinger discussed the idea behind the image:
The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.